By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
PHOENIX (AP) — From diversity to concussions, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league is still looking for improvement.
As for officiating, he says: “it’s never been better.”
Goodell addressed those topics and more, including the Washington Commanders’ investigation, flex scheduling and international play in his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday.
DeMeco Ryans became the NFL’s third Black head coach when Houston hired the former Pro Bowl linebacker and 49ers defensive coordinator. Ryans joined Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles. There are three other minority coaches, including Miami’s Mike McDaniel, who has a Black father and identifies as biracial.
The Titans hired Ran Carthon, the league’s eighth Black general manager and ninth person of color overall.
“I still feel like there’s better work and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said. “I think there’s progress and we’re pleased to see progress but there’s never enough. We look to see how we can make things better.”
Player safety is always a hot topic in the NFL. Concussions were magnified and the league revised its protocols during the season after criticism for the way Tua Tagovailoa’s head injuries were handled.
The NFL announced last week concussions had increased by 18 percent during the regular season. Goodell attributed the rise to the updated diagnostic measures.
“I think that’s a reason why concussions went up this year, because we had a broader definition,” Goodell said. “If you have more evaluations you’re going to have more concussions. Any time we can change the protocols to make it safer for our players, we’re going to do that. We’re not afraid of having them diagnosed. That’s important to us and why we encourage players to come forward when they have symptoms so we can make sure they are handled properly.”
Overall, Goodell said injuries are down 6% this year. He said injuries for Thursday games and for the additional Week 18 games are no different than any other time during the season.
“You want to take the head out of the game,” Goodell said. “You’re always going to have contacts that are not intended, so that’s why we have protections, but ultimately you want to have rules that are avoiding the techniques that lead to these kinds of injuries.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out the league and the players’ union have, since 2009, instituted return to-play protocols, brought in sideline concussion experts, revamped health and safety standards and made it a requirement for team doctors to comply with all federal and state guidelines.
“This has been a relentless effort to constantly improve safety,” Smith said.
Quality of NFL officiating has been scrutinized, especially in the playoffs. There was heavy criticism early in the season regarding roughing-the-passer penalties.
“When you look at officiating, I don’t think it’s ever been better in the league,” Goodell said. “There are over 42,000 plays in a season and multiple infractions could occur on any play. Take that out, extrapolate that. That’s hundreds, if not millions, of potential fouls. Our officials do an extraordinary job of getting those. Are there mistakes in the context of that? Yes. They are not perfect and officiating never will (be).”
Goodell said there’s no timeline for Mary Jo White to complete her ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct by the owner Daniel Snyder. Goodell has said the report will be made public. Snyder and wife Tanya in early November hired a firm to explore possible transactions related to the team so it’s possible the Commanders will be sold.
“The Commanders are under a process. That’s their process,” Goodell said. “Ultimately, if they reach a conclusion and have someone joining the ownership group or buying the team, that’s something the ownership will look at.”
Goodell said Monday night games will be subject to flex scheduling next season. He added it’s possible Thursday night games also could be flexed at some point in the future.
The NFL played its first regular-season game in Germany this season and five teams will play home games in Germany and London in 2023. The league will return to Mexico in 2024 after stadium renovation.
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